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Bright but Cheap

926_ViewSonicVG2436wm-LED If your school’s power bills have you down, check out the new ViewSonic VG2436wm monitor, which is plenty bright but uses half the power of other similar-sized monitors. The LED backlit LCD monitor can show 1,920 by 1,080 resolution for super-sharp graphics and high definition programming and has a pair of speakers. It comes with a stand that can be adjusted up and down by more than 5-inches so it can accommodate sixth-graders through seniors.

Freebee Friday: A Planet in the Balance

Earth alerts We’ve all used Google Earth to zoom in on maps and geographic places of note, but Earth Alerts can take this digital mapping to a new level. By displaying places where a natural disaster is on-going or imminent, Earth Alerts can show earth science students where the globe is most in trouble. It might be a volcano, earthquake or dangerous storm, but they all show up as icons on Earth Alerts’online map. If you put the mouse of it, the details are shown; click and you’ll see where the disaster is taking place as well as a video feed if it’s available. Some icons even have Web cams associate with them for a bird’s eye view of what’s going on. The latest version of the software works only with PCs and it’s free, but the developers welcome any donations.

A New Classroom Vision

3916 classroom control Netop has revamped its MyVision classroom program to work with Microsoft’s Active Directory so that teachers can monitor student work, wherever they happen to be working. Version 2.0 of MyVision works with Macs as well as 32- or 64-bit PCs. It’s a free upgrade for existing MyVision schools and others can try it out for free. One program costs $200 for a year, $150 each when purchasing 10 seats and less for licenses.
 

Plug Ethernet Gaps

EIDM-EXTEND-2_large Is there a place in your school complex that’s too far for conventional wired Ethernet to reach, like a maintenance shop, trailer classroom or sports field? B&B Electronics’s Ethernet extender can push networking as far as about 3 miles over phone or network wiring. B&B’s $750 2-10/100 SHDSL Ethernet extender is required at each end, automatically determines the top speed available and can move as much as 10 megabits per second of data with plenty of bandwidth for Internet phone calls, video-conferences as well as Web work.

Android Attacks

Google-android-logo After half a year of the market to itself, Apple’s iPad finally has some competition. A slew of Android-powered slates will be out in the coming weeks, from the svelte Samsung Galaxy Tab to the large screen Archos 10.1. The hardware looks certain, but the missing link might be software.

With no shortage of iPad apps, Android has a lot of catching up to do. So far, there are 140,000 Android apps, about half as many as there are for the iPad, but Android software is more focused and less frivolous. There’re plenty of programs for everything from myPocketProf (a place to store and organize a student’s work) to Guitarist’s Reference (a compilation of chords, scales and more).

On the downside, many Android apps are nothing more than upsized phone programs. As a result they will either take up half of the system’s screen or be resized to fill it, which can result in a fuzzy screen.

On top of downloading the software directly from the Android Market, try Android Zoom (www.androidzoom.com) and http://www.androidapps.com/ (http://www.androidapps.com/ ).The best part is that many of the best are absolutely free. Here’re five of my favorite school-ready apps.

Science
Trivia I love the idea behind 1001 Science Trivia, a Q&A sequence that is as good a way to test students as with flash cards. It covers a wide range of information, including George Eastman, cell membrane and quantum mechanics. All incorrect answers get an “X” and embarrassing “boing” noise. Aaron Nitheesh also has written similar apps for art and religion, TV and sport.


 

Language Arts
Diaro While most Android slates will come with ThinkFree Office, which has a nice word processor, sometimes it’s not enough. Ltesta’s Diaro is a great little app that sets up a secure daily diary that’s good for jotting down class notes on the go, assignments and even the occasional journal assignment. All new writing is automatically saved, everything is passcode protected and can include pictures.

Social Studies
Cia Need to know the capital of Azerbijan or when the Maldives Islands became independent? The CIA World Fact Book has it all and much more with details of hundreds of countries. It’s got enough info to excite any social studies teacher with a lesson plan to build with oodles of geography, economy, culture and government. By the way, the answers are Baku and 1965.

Music
Ear Nautilus Ear Coach Lite can help music teachers train little ears for music theory with an abundance of experience. On top of digital lessons on intervals and chords, the software has tests for each, and the app can tell the difference between a student who has mastered the Perfect Fourth from one who hasn’t grasped the Minor Second.

 Math
Math Math is often considered the stepchild of multimedia content with few online videos on how to solve quadratics or multiply three-digit numbers, but Mental Math is a storehouse of math videos and online lessons that can help students understand the ideas and the techniques. If your student can’t master a portion, he or she can go back and watch it again.

Shedding Some Light on Keyboards

K750_FOB_US_300_dpi Hate changing batteries of wireless keyboards? Who doesn’t, and the cost of them adds up quickly. Logitech can put an end to this expensive exercise and lower a school’s carbon footprint with its K750 keyboard. Along the top is a row of solar cells that charge an internal battery so that it will always be ready for a day of finger work, that is if it’s left in a lighted room to charge its internal battery. It works with recent Windows PCs, can be preordered now at $80 and comes with a 3-year warranty.

Scan It


Ps406_12 Forget about the notion that the days of the stand-alone scanner is over in light of a wave of inexpensive all-in-one multifunction printers. A separate scanner still is faster and more precise than an MFP and adds features that MFPs don’t include. Take the Plustek SmartOffice PS406U, which at $1,300 is a bargain because it includes duplexing for two-side scanning, a 100-sheet document feeder and can scan up to 40 pages a minute.

Look Through a New Prizm

Fx-CG10_F.1 In a startling break with the past, Casio’s Prizm fxCG10 graphing calculator is the first device of its kind with a color screen. Immediately, the eye is drawn to the 3.2-inch screen that shows bright colors in high resolution. It is just as good for showing how the graphs of two functions in different colors relate to each other as turning a lab’s data into multicolored pie charts. In what will look like visual magic, it can overlay graphs of physical activities on top of downloadable photos to make it more understandable. It runs on four AAA batteries, costs $110 and gives TI’s family of graphing calculators a run for the money. Look for a full review in a couple of weeks.

Thin is In

Pic23693[1] Who says that a thin notebook has to cost an arm and a leg (and sometimes a few other limbs)? Lenovo breaks the price barrier with the $900 IdeaPad U260, making it suitable for school use. Its 12.5-inch screen is unique in the notebook world: bigger than an 12.1-inch display, it’s less expensive than a 13.3-inch on. The system is powered by either an Intel Core i3 or i5 processor and it comes with a 320GB hard drive. It’s all packaged in an ultra-rugged magnesium-aluminum case that’s only 0.7-inches thick and the entire system weighs a little over 3 pounds, making it easy to carry. Available in a variety of colors, it has luxury touches, like a leather palm rest, and goes on sale today.

Freebee Friday: Software for Standard Deviants

Winstats Statistics is one of the hardest math disciplines to teach, but the right software and real-world examples can make it easier and more relevant. The WinStats program can help with the ability to work through large data sets, showing students everything from mean to standard deviation with scatter plots, curve fitting and histograms. The latest version is only a few weeks old, is available in 7 languages and runs on all recent versions of Windows. It’s available from Phillips Exeter Academy for free

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tools are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.